Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Balakot: A Lesson to learn part 2

A space at Bangkok Airport where we prayed

We proceed to Gate 32 and had to stop for security check. The irritating buzzing sound triggered as I walked through the scanner indicating the presence of metalic object. A body check was performed and I was glad that it was fast and simple using a hand scanner. Haji Hani was not so lucky. He was screened by a lady officer with the hand scanner and hand searched for concealed contraband. "Damned it! She touched my chest and it was ticklish," he complained. :)

Mansehra-Balakot Road; Dr Hassan, Hj Hani, Dr Azmi

We boarded Thai Airways inbound to Lahore at 8.30 pm but due to unavoidable circumstances, our flight was only allowed to depart at about 8.50 pm, a 20 minutes delay. The cabin was quite hot and we were sweating. Most of the passengers were Pakistani, Thailand foreign workers returning home for Eid. They were nicely dressed with a number wearing blazers with ties.

It was getting hotter and some passengers were already using newspapers or magazines as fans. The cabin odour was getting stronger and unpleasant. Everything changed after we took off. It got cooler and we were given warm towel to wipe our oily face and sweaty hands. It was 30 minutes later when the long awaited meal were served. Since we had a light iftar at Bangkok, our stomach had started to grumble. What we were worried of was 'what if we could not get halal food as we had requested before departure?' We leaned forward, peeping at the front seat passenger when he was served with a specially requested food, a 'Non pork meal' written on the box.

Grinning, I told my friends, "Non pork doesnt mean its halal. It may be chicken or cow slaughtered by non Muslims."
The steawardess continued moving, pushing a fairly big container-trolley filled with prepared meals asking politely to the passengers, "Chicken or fish sir? Maam?"
Then came our turn and after looking at a check list, she started to prepare our meal. On the box was clearly written 'Muslim meal'. We looked at each other smilling, as it was prepared according to our request. Most of the passenger just took the standard prepared meal without asking its origin.

We finished our chicken biryani, had our coffee and my newly recharged mind started to wonder, "Have anybody seen that Pakistani boy, friend of Mahmud? He is supposed to be in the same flight."
Nobody saw him. He could not have missed the flight since we were told that the boy would be checking in a few minutes later. It was not the same case as what had happened to Mr Mahmud other friend who missed his plane forcing Mr Mahmud to wait for the next flight that should be arriving at 5.00 pm.

Mr Mahmud and his Malay friend was supposed to go on business trip together in Bangkok that evening. Anyway his Malay friend did not turn up. Now, his Pakistani friend too disappeared into thin air, nowhere to be seen, not in flight nor at Lahore.

Damages at Muzaffarabad

We managed to get a short sleep before arriving at Allama Iqbal International Airport, Lahore at 10.00 pm local time. We just follow the crowd and queue at the foreigners line. The officer at the counter seemed very detailed with her questions causing a long wait. After 15 minutes waitaing in the hardly moving line, we were then ushered to the Pakistan Passport lines that were emptying fast. Then only we noticed that there was a special counter for the earthquake relief volounteers like us. We moved to the counter and were bombarded with questions, not only by the lady officer from the counter but also from another male officer that suddenly turn up since I told them that i was the head of the group.

We had to fill forms, special entry forms asking what sort of aid we will be giving, our destination, our local address and our expertise. The male officer then asked for my pen to write someting on my entry form. It was a nice green pen given to me by a medical company back home. I expected the pen to be given back to me, but alas, NO! He gave it to the lady officer, wicked smiles in their faces and than she placed it carefully on the right side of her computer keyboard. She lifted her 'i knew nothing face' and told me, "Thank you sir, you may proceed." Knowing these people, I just kept quiet, not bothering to ask or saying good bye to my pen.

Naran Road; They had to walk more than 15 km

I had been to Pakistan before, way back in 1980. I visited my sister who studied in a college taking A-Levels at Karachi. She stayed at Jayker Road which reminds me of a book 'The Jackal', not the classic 'Dr Jaykell and Mr Hyde'. She was not on vacation during my visit, so I opted on her suggestion to travel and visit other Malaysian students in Lahore, 1000 miles away. I took 'Shalimar' Express, a superfast train that arrived at Lahore 14 hours later. A super express will take you 18 hours, normal train 24 hours and a combo train somewhere 36 hours. I then travelled by myself to Amritsa, Jammu, Sri Nagar and New Delhi which took me one whole week.

Balakot; Brotherly love. Parents victim of 8/10/2005 earthquake

We then proceed to get our baggages; rucksacks, boxes filled with equipment and medicines. We were stopped half way and more questions asked, "Why are you here? What sort of aid are you going to give? Where are you bound to? How many days will you be staying? What do you have with you?"
Satistied with the answers, we were then allowed to get our things and proceed to queue to have our things X-Rayed. We had to pass through the customs counter which allowed us to move unchecked. "You are from the relief mission? Malaysia?" An officer asked.
"Yes." I nodded.
"Good, welcome and you may proceed," answered the officer.
At last! There was someone that can appreaciate our effort, and it reminded me of my father in law, a retired high ranking non corrupted custom's officer.

Balakot; Treating an injured girl

A Malaysian student was there waiting for us once we were outside the custom check point. Brother Jamal had just finished his Islamic Studies final examination and was preparing for home. Our collegue, Brother Iqbal had arranged for Brother Jamal to meet us and board us on a bus to Abbotabad in the North Western Frontier Province the same night.


Paul Moss said...

Yes. Today is a very nice day indeed. The weather is beautiful, the air clean and I get to see some very touching photos.
Brotherly love is the most human photo although I can`t give much credit for the glare at the background. It`s got a message and very clearly understood that we should send more help because when we look at this image, we are touched and these children have now become ours.
There`s a red object on the ground. With my graphic card I can`t differentiate what it is but it does add strength to the message. My imagination suggested that it`s a red flower. It`s on the ground and the child is crying and the brother consoling. This is great. It is a good day for me. The glare, the 4wd and mr blue pants went unnoticed because the object of focus sends a powerful message. Good Job.
Naran Road : Good composition, good object, got a message but framing ran too much to the right which is awkward. Should shift the framing to the left instead to add direction.

Kashif said...

Nice to learn that you are in Pakistan for relief work. Please elaborate your relief efforts, if possible.

About the incident at airport, well, there are always black sheep around.

pycnogenol said...

I would have thought that you and your team would be getting warm, brotherly and appreciative welcome from the Pakistani authorities, instead of the suspicious questionings and looks on their faces.
People at the airport (at the very least) should have been reminded to welcome the relief workers and treat them as guests of honour.
I may be wrong here, but I suspect that Malaysians are a lot more appreciative...in good or bad times!!

Nurelhuda said...

Diffeferent people, different race , different ways Pycno. But these are the trials of those whose intention it is to help.This is where the dugaan is, can our sincerity withstand the trials of the perangai of the people we are helping?

crimsonskye said...

i learnt from this post that there's indeed a lot to be prepared for when you decided to become a relief mission volunteer. your anecdote abt the pen actually the one that stands out to me, don't know why. i suppose there are many people who would make a big deal abt the pen instead of letting it go...

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